The Lady with the Pet Dog

by Joyce Carol Oates

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 283

Anna: Anna is the protagonist, around whom the third-person omniscient narrator centers the story. She is married to a man who works long hours at a plant, is dissatisfied in her marriage, and begins an affair with another married man during a getaway to her family’s old home in Nantucket. She has a habit of leaving her husband for days or weeks in order to be “alone,” but is ultimately at her loneliest whenever she is with him. Her affair drives her to hate her lover, herself, and her husband, and the narrator mentions several times that she feels insane and suicidal. The cyclical nature of the narration reinforces Anna's distorted mental state, in which she has difficulty reconciling her love and passion for a man that is not her husband, and the intense shame and loneliness she feels in her own marriage.

Anna’s husband is unnamed and middle-aged. He shows concern for his wife, but seems attached to his work. He accepts her back whenever she leaves him.

Anna’s Lover: He lives in Manhattan and has a wife and three children, the youngest of which is a blind boy. He tells Anna that his marriage is contemptuous, and that his wife uses the children as a weapon against him. Even after they have ended the affair, he travels to Anna to begin it again. He meets Anna in Nantucket and after sketching her with his dog, Ty, begins a secret relationship with her. He travels and stays in different hotels each time in order to be with her. He tracks her down, and several times convinces her to continue the affair even after Anna has tried to end it.

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